Mid December, 2000. Cape May, New Jersey.
This is from an email my brother sent, regarding his new character to lead the group, after the loss of Maks. I asked him how the group and the new CO would react to each other. Some great stuff here. I made some minor edits, created more paragraphs, fixed typos and the like, and added some Bold emphasis in spots to help the casual online reader to keep their place. Remember this is an email; my brother wasn’t writing for the ages.
Bart Moss was born in Dallas, TX in 1951 to a family with a strong law enforcement history. As he approached manhood this police pedigree appealed to him though he wanted to take his own direction with it. So he chose to pursue college through ROTC, graduating from Texas A&M with a degree in Criminal Justice and a commission in the United States Army. His first commission serving first with the 89th Military Police Brigade in Ft Hood Texas.
This freshly-minted 2nd Lieutenant soon handled a call for service to retrieve a drunken and ill-behaved enlistee from one Maria Alvarez. Her work as a front desk motel clerk paid much less than it should have given the behavior of both clientele and fellow staff alike. Yet she persisted at the job as it left her with considerable time to study at work and the income was sufficient to support her daytime classes towards a nursing degree. It was just a chance occurrence that their paths crossed that night but within a year they were married.
His promotion to 1st lieutenant found them transferred to Germany to serve with the 18th Military Police Brigade. Children following soon after – twin boys at first, then a girl two years later. As the years progressed he found post-Vietnam peacetime military service to be a bit boring, though he sure learned a lot from the combat veterans he served with. And there was that one situation with the pack of renegade survivalist enlistees who stole a bunch of small arms and man portable heavy weapons. The CID specialist team got much of the credit for resolving that situation, but it still brought the name Bart Moss to the attention of a few important people.
But taken as a whole his career mostly involved dealing with the same banal, foolish mistakes of immature enlisted men. Towards the end of his initial term obligation he found himself feeling unchallenged and uncertain about what to do with the rest of his life and with the needs of a family to consider. He could push ahead with the politicking necessary to advancement in an atmosphere of “move up or move out”. While he felt perfectly capable of succeeding at this social climbing he also felt no enjoyment with that part of the job. The notion of devoting ever increasing amounts of his energy to these political chess games held little appeal. He continued service for another year under voluntary indefinite status before separating from the military to pursue civilian law enforcement work.
This led to his new career as a county sheriff’s deputy, first living in Denver, Colorado then later in Williston, North Dakota. By the 1990’s his career was well positioned for an eventual run as county sheriff, albeit somewhere else as the entrenched local political clique made abundantly clear.
It was at this point that WWIII broke out. His initial response was to protect his family and continue focusing on local civilian law enforcement and for a time that is exactly what they did.
The unexpected reality for him was the apocalypse soon became fairly boring. He already had naturally made extensive preparations. It was the Cold War and they were a self-sufficient-minded people. Furthermore he found that at least for their little local pocket of the world that things became very stable because his sons were grown men and his neighbors were all so like-minded.
A small number of troublemakers were warned off and dealt with where necessary. Their community was far from population centers. Farm work was physically exhausting, but personally rewarding, yet the state of the outside world grated at him. Into this relatively quiet environment flowed news from the outside world, stories crushing disaster and widespread lawlessness. And all of the human depravity that follows.
Before long, and much to the consternation of his wife Maria, Bart Moss had established communication with contacts in the US Army. He soon back in active duty serving in internal security roles.
By the end of the year 2000, Moss had been promoted to Captain and has been building his reputation as a problem solver. It was at this point that Cpt. Moss found himself in command of a unit of soldiers called the Fire Knights. They’d come across the ocean after fighting their way through Europe. Some were Americans yet others were foreign, though fortunately those could manage a modicum of English.
A more pressing dynamic presented itself to the Captain. These men had just lost their commanding officer – “Maks” – some wild Polish Colonel who managed to keep all of his team alive in a way that might be compared to the likes of Lewis and Clark or Shackleton. Yet Bart had also learned that within three weeks of stepping on US soil Maks and his team had nearly been wiped out in Atlantic City. And the subsequent mission in Manhattan was a disaster for the team. Maks was slain instantly by a sniper near the Empire State Building.
Cpt Moss knew it would be necessary to keep these considerations in mind. He would be supportive of a funeral and burial for Maks’ remains adequate to the wishes of his team. And there was the unresolved matter of Maks’ family. Some of the team have families of their own somewhere in the US. And their interactions with each other were still new to him. As with any team of subordinates he knew that leadership success would come only through understanding their individual strengths, weaknesses, motivations and disincentives. Only then could he understand how to keep them all working together properly.
So he made arrangements to begin meeting with them, individually at first, after they had been debriefed from their last mission and having had an opportunity to sleep. He knew some officers who liked to have their new staff all lined-up and then make a big, bold entrance when assuming command of a new group. Moss preferred to first understand what he was working with before making any big speeches. Foolish to speak without first understanding your audience.
Moss was being placed in command of the unit despite “Doc” Schultz having equal rank, with the physician instead to be technically assigned as a liaison in charge of spearheading a new civilian medical outreach pilot program. While these weird military paperwork games are hardly unprecedented, the unusual dynamic left Moss wondering if this was going to create friction. All the more so in light of the surgeon’s very successful command leadership over the team following the sudden loss of Maks. Moss decided to take the bull by the horns and begin his one-on-one meetings with the surgeon.
At their meeting, Moss made a point of showing military courtesies. When he steered the conversation toward the topic of this new command structure, Doc Schultz threw cold water on any concerns. He made clear that he was relieved at getting the team back alive, an outcome which he largely credited to the combat talents of his teammates whom he suddenly inherited complete responsibility of. He had little interest of directing violent activities for which he had lacked any genuine training, talent or appreciation for. While he was no pacifist, Jeff Schultz was also not a man who enjoys conflict. Moreover the Hippocratic Oath really mattered to him. While he could discern a moral difference between a patient and an enemy combatant, the fact remained that commanding men to kill people was an unappealing prospect. His calling was for saving lives and minimizing suffering through medical intervention and he would feel more satisfied if left to focus on that.
Moss was concerned about the situation with the Polish soldier, SSgt Wojciech Nowak, who was known to have a long and friendly history with the slain officer Maks. Yet the mysterious foreigner had disappeared somewhere on base after they returned, before even being debriefed. Hoping that the one thing wouldn’t develop into a big issue he decided to instead take the other bull by the horns and begin his one-on-one meetings with the surgeon.
With the one matter resolved, Moss next met the American soldier Grant Derek William, who was the team’s talented sniper. GDW seemed a bit broken up about Maks and seemed disinterested in talking of it other than to express a small measure of pride in getting the first payback for Maks. He was more willing to express his feelings regarding his concern that the team might be broken up. GDW spoke highly of the others, specifically Barna, whom he described as his “sneaky German bear”. Finally he promised he would try to locate the missing Wojciech.
Barna Aron, GDW’s German friend, came next. Bart at first had difficulty reconciling this hulking European beast as being the same man described by GDW as a talented spotter partner. Bart was no rancher, but he had been around cattle enough to recognize that despite the phrase “bull in a china shop” the beasts could actually be rather agile so he viewed this ox of a man through that lens. Barna’s grasp of English was poor but comprehensible. The man showed little emotion aside from agreeing about GDWs assertions that they are a good team, and expressing an interest in some R&R. He too promised that he would look for Wojciech.
Linda Gasparino came next and boy was she was a curiosity to be sure. Bart was already taken aback by how little information was contained in her file, and still more by how little Grant and Barna could do to fill in the blanks. Meeting her quicking became very interesting, though an observer would probably be oblivious to it. Bart’s cop senses really caught a weird edge about her. It was obvious that it would be a bad idea to mention Maks in any detail, even his mention of supporting the funeral service was difficult for her. It seems that when he died something else had died there.
But even that wasn’t all there was to Linda. Cops can be superstitious about their powers of perception, but Moss got the distinct impression about still another thing. It happened when he mentioned his mission statement for the group, regarding stopping criminals – she got a look in her eye. He got the distinct impression not that she was a criminal, but rather that she had once been the victim. She seemed to be struggling with everything but seemed interested in the offer to remain with the team and perhaps enlist.
It was only at this point that GDW arrived to explain that Wojciech had been located. At first GDW tried to make some lame excuses about him being sick but he is a terrible liar with anyone let alone a seasoned cop. Moss made it clear that he despised being ill-informed, yet also reassured that he spent much of his life in civilian law enforcement where “officer’s discretion” is a thing.
The truth was that Wojciech had slipped away from the debriefing queue, preferring instead to make his way to a nearby bar. The pair had heard a commotion and saw some MPs running towards the bar so they followed them on a hunch. Inside they discovered Wojciech, who’d quickly drank himself to excess and created a scene. The grieving man had apparently been quiet and sullen at first but before long was shouting in Polish, first at an empty barstool then towards all of the other patrons who had no clue what he was saying and wanting no part of his ire.
Fortunately GDW and Barna arrived right as the MPs were in a standoff surrounding Wojciech, preparing to dog pile him. The duo quickly de-escalated the situation. GDW enthusiastically offered to confine Wojciech back at their house where he promised that his friend would be able to control this Pole until he sobered up. These MPs sensed it might be wiser to let this menacing German busy himself with collecting his drunken European friend, and then the bottle of scotch offered up by the American sweetened the deal. They let them go with a warning. With the situation averted, GDW then had to plead with this new Captain Moss to give the man a chance. Moss told GDW to get his friend sobered up and return that evening.
DeAngelo Pratt was next. The man seemed to have evolved since their arrival in the US. Despite having survived alongside everyone else, circumstances apparently had often left him controlling a vehicle full of precious equipment much of the time. Pratt had been entirely too skilled at driving, a task which he defensively described to Moss as a “vital role”.
Combat reports from the others made clear that whatever his past experience that Pratt had really gone deep during this last fight. After they met Moss learned that Pratt was still a bit shaken from that last battle. They had seen so many tough scrapes before but the loss of Maks really rattled him and then the last stand at the corner. Yet when pressed DeAngelo showed no reluctance to continue serving. Indeed he has family in this region, including Pittsburgh. There is a part of him that wants to embark to go find them but he knows how dangerous that is. There might be another part of him afraid of what he would find there. The things he’s seen in Europe served only to heighten these thoughts. For the moment he occupies his mind with the idea that the best hope for his family and everyone else is to restore civilization as quickly as possible.
Moss had one last man to meet in his unit, Wojciech. The man looked tired, his eyes a bit sunken-in looking. But he arrived clean shaven and in uniform. Moss didn’t dwell on the past incident, moving instead to the only topic that really mattered in the end – the future. Wojciech said the right words but Moss sensed a reticence.
When pushed on this, and told to speak freely, a spark of boldness cracked through Wojciech’s sullen exterior. He expressed his continued willingness to serve, but then pressed the captain for news. He angrily challenged the Army’s stated willingness to resolve the matter of Maks’ family, leaving little question that Maks’ last days were plagued with doubts of whether they would ever be allowed to reunite.
Surprised at his own outburst, especially in light of the shaky footing following his previously drunken behavior, Wojciech expected to be dismissed from service.
But rather than responding with anger at this display of insubordination, the frown that crossed the captain’s face instead had the look of genuine sadness. Pausing a moment, Moss simply replied that he would do what he could to learn more about all of that, while warning that his rank was lower than Maks so his influence will have limits. Sensing the continued frustration by Wojciech, then Moss added an observation that as an American officer perhaps he may be better suited than Maks was to navigate the MilGov bureaucracy. At this they concluded the meeting.
Knowing now much more about his new team, Bart Moss set about planning his next moves…